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Physics

The main aim of the Physics Department is to promote a genuine enjoyment of the subject and appreciate how Physics can help to understand the world in which we live.

Practical work is considered to be an essential part of the subject and, from an early age, your son is taught how to be a competent and responsible experimental scientist. The Physics staff are well qualified and enthusiastic and work hard to develop an academically challenging learning environment which includes the provision of extension classes, tutorials, revision classes, weekly drop-in clinics and the provision of resources through our virtual learning environment.

Examination results are taken very seriously; each boy is individually helped and encouraged to achieve his potential and the Department is proud of the results obtained by the boys at IGCSE, Higher and A Level and beyond.

Staff

James Mayoh

Teacher of Physics
MPhys PhD

Dr Mayoh studied Theoretical Physics at the University of St Andrews and completed a PhD in Condensed Matter Physics at Cambridge, prior to qualifying as a teacher. He joined Merchiston in September 2017. He is a talented musician and a keen cyclist.

Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls

Head of Physics, Science and Technology
BSc

Mr Nicholls taught in Durham before spending five years teaching in Turkey. He joined the Merchiston staff in September 2002. His interests include sailing, sound & lighting and Engineering. He became Head of Science and Technology in September 2011. Mr Nicholls runs the sailing activity, Science Club and engineering activities.

Roman Shepley

Physics Technician
BSc

Mr Shepley studied Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. He joined Merchiston in September 2016. As well as his role as a part-time technician he tutors Maths, Physics and Chemistry.

Sharon Twyford

Sharon Twyford

Teacher of Physics
BSc, MSc, PhD

Dr Twyford studied at Universities of Strathclyde and then Glasgow where she completed her PhD in Gravitational Physics. After working in industry for some years, she joined Edinburgh University where she did her teacher training. She joined Merchiston in September 2002.  

Facilities

The Physics Department resides in Gibson House alongside Biology and Chemistry. There are three modern specialist Physics laboratories and a technicians’ prep room. The laboratories are each equipped to a high standard with data projectors, computer facilities and a substantial amount of standard laboratory apparatus to support the intensely practical nature of the Physics courses. The Department has invested heavily in new technology and the boys have access, from a young age, to full class sets of state of the art data-logging apparatus. Every aspect of the more advanced courses is supported by more specialist equipment which can either be used by the boys or to provide whole class demonstrations.

The Science Department takes out a subscription to New Scientist magazine, which is available in the library, and the Physics Department complements this with subscriptions to Physics World, Physics Review and Sky at Night.

Curriculum

I & II Forms

The Science syllabus for I and II Forms covers the needs of our new intake and is in line with the stipulations of the Curriculum for Excellence and the English National Curriculum.

Physics as a distinct subject is taught from the III Form.

III and IV Forms

Boys follow Merchiston’s own Physics curriculum which is broadly based on the English National Curriculum. The course involves as much practical work as possible so that the boys develop the experimental and investigative skills necessary as they move up through the School.

Shell & V Forms

The Department delivers Edexcel IGCSE Physics, either as a Single Science, or through the Double Award route. Single Award offers a very rigorous and ‘traditional’ course that gives the boys a thorough understanding of the subject. Double Award students will study a reduced content course, which still retains much interesting and challenging Physics. Either route offers a solid foundation for A Level. We would recommend those who are confident of their intention to study A Level Physics to pursue the Single Award route.

VI Form

We follow the Edexcel A Level course, which provides a comprehensive, varied and current background in Physics. There is also the option available to pursue Higher Physics in the Upper Sixth year as an alternative to A Level.

Activities

The Physics Department is heavily involved in the British Physics Olympiad and enjoys considerable success at all levels. Boys are encouraged to take the Physics Challenge in their Fifth Form year, the AS Physics competition in the Lower Sixth Form and then the Physics Olympiad in their Upper Sixth Form year. In recent years there have been Gold medals achieved at all levels and several boys have been selected to train with, or be part of, the British Physics team.

As part of their activity programme, junior boys can choose to be part of the Science club. This club is run by representatives from each of the three science departments and aims to explore science beyond the normal curriculum. Senior boys can chose to be involved in the Astronomy club which meets regularly throughout the Autumn and Lent Terms. The Astronomy club has access to three telescopes and a variety of photographic equipment, as well as using online telescopes to produce high quality astro-images.

The department runs an annual trip to CERN. This is hugely beneficial for our Sixth Form students as it allows them to put their study of Particle Physics into context, as well as exploring the site of arguably the most ambitious scientific experiments of all time.

Our student-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.

Merchiston

Through our close links with the Roslin Institute, IGCSE and A Level pupils also get to experience advanced genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work offered within schools. Being able to use the Roslin labs has enabled the department to deliver hands on experiments on subject matter elsewhere only able to be taught theoretically.

Ms Williams Head of Biology

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)

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